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Welcome to the world of Linux. Correctly referred to as GNU/Linux, it is a full Open Source Operating System with its kernel, and there are many different distributions of it. Each of those distributions (or ‘distros’) are different flavours of Linux – some bring a different GUI desktop environment (so that it looks completely different on-screen – see KDE and Gnome), others have certain applications which others do not (for example: some bring the Instant Messaging application Kopete while others bring Gaim), the choice of package manager varies between them (like APT or Yum), and many other configurations. You can find more information on Linux at Wikipedia.
Today, we shall be using a distro called Mandriva, and its 2006 release. I have chosen it as this tutorial’s distro because it is very easy to use, brings a wide range of applications, and works brilliantly out of the box (or the ISO, in this case!) – all in all, it is highly suitable for those trying Linux for the first time. Click here to download Mandriva-Linux-Free-2006-DVD.i586.iso. This ISO is a DVD image file, and once it has finished downloading, burn it using one of the methods described on LinuxISO.com – although if you do not want to wade through all that information, just download the free BurnAtOnce to burn it to a DVD+R/DVD-R. Each individual step in this tutorial begins with a hyphen –.
- -Now we can begin the installation. Go to the machine you would like to install Linux onto; the best thing to do is not to dual boot (have Linux and Windows on the same computer), because that will make the process more complicated and it may be frustrating for a new Linux user. So, backup everything on the target computer, and then insert the DVD into the drive. Restart the computer, and then as the computer starts up, you will see a screen like the one below. You should press the button advised for the “Boot Menu” or to “Change The Boot Order”. In my case, this is the Esc key.
- -Then, select CD-ROM/DVD drive from the list that pops up, and after the computer begins reading the disc you should see a screen like the one below.
- -Now the keyboard selection screen will come up. If the one you use does not appear, you can find it by clicking the “More” button and selecting it from the list.
- -At the Security screen, simply press “Next” – the default settings are good enough. Then click “Next” on the screen after it, which tells you that accessing Microsoft partitions will only be available to root (the “administrator”).
- -To keep things simple, we will choose to either “Use free space” (if you have nothing on your hard drive) or to “Erase entire disk” (to delete everything on your hard drive if there is content there).
- -If you are feeling particularly adventurous, you can choose the “Custom disk partitioning” option.
Note: If you would not like to do this, please continue to the next step.
Select “Custom disk partitioning”, click “Next”, and you will be taken to the screen below. First of all, we will set up the Primary partition – this is the one in which we will place our root folder (/). Click on “Journalised FS” to set it up.
Set the size to be almost all of your hard drive, but make sure you leave a bit of space at the end – the rule I use is that the size of the remaining space should be the size of your RAM. So, in my case, I’ll leave 1GB of space. As the “Filesystem type”, select ReiserFS. The advantages of ReiserFS over other formats like ext3 is that, because of its advanced journalling techniques, it is considerably faster. Leave the mount point as root “/” – this is the highest level in the Linux filesystem; you can think of / as the C:\ of Linux.
Then, select the free space on the right of the / partition, and click on the green “Swap” button.
Allow the Swap partition to take up all of the remaining space, and leave the other default setting. Click “Ok” when you have finished.
This will take you back to the partition overview. If you are satisfied with your creation, click “Done”, and then “Ok” to write the changes to disk.
- -The installation will format the hard drive, and you will soon be shown the screen below. In my opinion, it is best to tick the “Copy whole CDs” checkbox, because if you need any of the files on the DVD to install more applications in the future you will have to scramble franctically around you room looking for the DVD – not a good idea.
- -And now, select the groups of packages you would like to install! Feel free to experiment with these, or if you prefer, select packages manually by ticking the “Individual package selection” at the bottom of the screen (although the group installs are perfect for our needs).
- -The installation will now begin. This may about 20 minutes, but it all depends on your computer’s specifications – so I recommend you go fetch a coffee and some biscuits.
- -Once the package installation has finished, you will be presented with the first “System configuration” screen. This is the root password one. For this, I advise you to choose an alphanumeric password which is impossible to remember and which you must never write down – especially if you’re security-conscious!
- -At the next screen, type in your name, username (this will default to your first name), and password for the normal user.
- -At the following screen, most if not all the hardware should be properly configured. If it is not it will be in red text – so select “Configure” on the right. From here, select the details as your computer’s specifications dictate. Hang in there, we’re almost done!
- -I recommend you update your computer at this point, but this isn’t a necessity – it can be done later on.
- -That’s it! Now choose “Reboot” to view the pièce de resistance!
- -When Mandriva finishes loading, you will be shown the login manager screen (kdm). Enter your details and press the Enter key.
Now, on to learn how to use a few applications – please excuse me if this seems slightly patronising!
- -We’ll start with our beloved Mozilla Firefox web browser – simply click the Firefox icon on the menu bar, or go to Mandriva (star) -] Internet -] Web Browsers -] Mozilla Firefox. Click on the picture below for an overview of its main features.
- -Kontact is an excellent email manager (with KMail integrated into it) – and it is so easy to use that it’s actually quite comforting. To set up an account, go to “Tools -] Configure KMail…”, and just fill in your details. You can click on its icon on the menu bar or go to Mandriva -] Internet -] Mail -] Kontact.
- -An application you cannot live without – Kopete allows you to keep in touch with your friends and family through Instant Messaging, and the variety of protocols it supports is outstanding. You must try it! Accessable via the menu bar or Mandriva -] Internet -] Kopete.
- -And the most successful Open Source word processor, OpenOffice.org Writer, is also preinstalled! Found in the menu at: Mandriva -] Office -] Wordprocessors -] OpenOffice.org Writer. It is extremely easy to use, and in my opinion the whole suite is more than just a rival to Microsoft Office – it is better than it.
Please play around with the other applications, because there are just so many available for Linux that browsing Sourceforge.net is actually quite good fun, and you will soon discover both the power and easy-of-use of Linux. Enjoy!